Stormers coming to the Gardens - and Saints can't wait!

Phil Dowson says Saints can't wait to get stuck into DHL Stormers on Saturday afternoon (kick-off 2.30pm).
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Dowson's side finally return to action following a break that has lasted since their Gallagher Premiership win against Newcastle Falcons on January 27.

They don't get back to league matters until the trip to Bristol Bears on March 22, but they now have two warm-up matches to sharpen up before the competitive stuff returns.

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Stormers come to town this weekend before Sale Sharks travel to the Gardens six days later.

Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
Phil Dowson (photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

And Dowson said: "Training levels have gradually been building and it's got to the point now where, as a coaching group, we know they need a game.

"We don't want to be knocking each other around too much, we'd rather get stuck into someone else, so it's a good time for a game.

"Juarno (Augustus) has got a lot of family back in Cape Town so it's a great fixture for us.

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"We've never played them, both clubs have got a huge history so for these clubs to be playing each other is great for everyone.

"We've had coaches go over there, they've had coaches come over here to do some coaching development so we've got a great relationship with them."

Saints will be desperate to hit the ground running when they go to Bristol later this month.

So how has Dowson approached team selection in the friendly fixtures?

“It depends on the individuals,” Dowson said.

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"We've got people coming back from injury so we'll limit minutes because their load and ability maintain that level over a long period of time will be reduced. So that's people like (Tom Seabrook), Hendo (George Hendy), Rambo (James Ramm) and we need to manage them back into it.

"Other guys, we want to get some more rugby into them from a conditioning point of view and we also want to look at some combinations to see what we want to do against Bristol, who is going to put their hand up so we want to give the whole squad the chance to show what they're capable of.

"So no decisions are being made in terms of going to Bristol, we pick sides to see combinations we're excited about and we're trying to manage people as well."

Saints are currently top of the Premiership and in the last 16 of the Investec Champions Cup. And the intensity levels are already starting to rise.

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“The intensity has been throughout this period but there's stuff on the line now and there's only six Prem games left and one European game to look forward to as it stands,” Dowson said.

"We want to make sure we take every opportunity and we're excited about that.

"What we've tried to do is look at why we're in those positions, what has got us to this point and how quickly it can turn around.

"The league table is still ludicrously close, Munster are still a very good European side who will be hurt from what happened at Thomond Park so we're under no illusions about how difficult it's going to be but we're excited about the challenge.”